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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 135 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Martian Eyes Strike Again  (Read 2012 times)
Lisa Padol
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Posts: 365


« on: November 16, 2003, 07:15:37 PM »

Oy. Ran a larp with Josh and with Stephen Tihor last week. Utterly exhausting, but we did it.

Meanwhile, I continue to be grateful for the examples in Sorcerer and sequels for creative interpretations of fumbles and failures.

Yesterday, I ran Cthulhupunk Plus 20, using OTE rules. Beth's character, Benjamin, had agreed to assassinate Kuranes, king of the Lovecraftian  Dreamlands, in return for a chance to save the leader of his people, the daemons. These are people with horns and hooves who can possess people, and come from the old NightLife rpg. Morality issues are quite interesting, as if this leader had wound up dead, it would have caused much chaos and blood shed. But that's a whold nother kettle o fish.

Okay, so, Benjamin goes to Kuranes' city in his dreams, and disguises himself in the body he usually wears, a soulless sidhe clone. (Yes, I can see issues with that, but that's a third kettle.) So, he figures the best thing to do is possess one of Kuranes' bodyguards. But first, he decides to test this possession thing to see if it works in the Dreamlands. He picks someone he doesn't mind killing, one of the Men from Leng in the slave trade.

In a dark alley, Benjamin tries and fails to possess him, and the two get into a tussel, interrupted by the king's guards. These are sympathetic to Benjamin, as everyone knows how icky the Men from Leng are, and the only weapon is the Man from Leng's knife, which they're tusseling over. But the Man from Leng maintains his innocence in this, so both are brought to the king.

Benjamin possesses one of the king's guards, and attacks. After two blows, the king is badly wounded, but not dead, and the other guards are tying to get their comrade off the king, preferably without hurting him, as, not being dummies, they suspect possession -- especially since the attack comes after the shell body Benjamin was wearing dissolves into dust.

So, Beth decides Benjamin will possess the king and try to overexert him to death. This strikes me as reasonable -- I don't want the combat to drag on, and she's choosing a new tactic to break the stalemate. So, I tell her to roll her daemon trait on 3d6. She rolls three 1s, dubbed "Martian Eyes" by Avram the last time he rolled such a fumble.

Hm. Well, says I, I don't think Benjamin is going to fail to possess Kuranes, and the king is badly wounded, so I don't think Benjamin is going to fail to exert the body to death. But we all agreed that Benjamin is stuck inside the king's dead body, at least in the Dreamlands.

Benjamin couldn't wake himself up, but his lover woke him. She's a dreamer herself, and knew instantly that Kuranes was dead, as did all Dreamers. This meant all but one of my PCs, as one of them had his dream self killed and can't go to the Dreamlands.

So, Benjamin realizes that the next time he falls asleep, he'll be in the king's dead body again. And it will be buried soon...

**********

There are a bunch of issues we're likely to duck. Moral ones mostly. For various reasons, Benjamin's been in a self loathing phase, and has just gotten over that. He's understandably in one again, but Beth is really tired of playing her PC as self loathing, so I'm not going to push that part. Kuranes is winding up dead in large part so I, the GM, can change rules I've used for the Dreamlands. I gave the players a heads up on that.

Hypnos, the god of dreams, who offered Benjamin the deal to save his leader, decided it was time to end Kuranes' reign. Why now, I asked Josh. He said to make up a cool number. Kuranes was given dominion of the Dreamlands for, say, 101 years. Or 1331 moons, he suggested. It's time for him to stop. The mortal who became Kuranes is long dead.

And, I figure, the frozen nature of the Dreamlands was artificial, doomed to end sooner or later, and the later, the more likely to be catastrophic.

This will probably let Beth decide that Benjamin still feels guilty for the assassination, but not for doing great harm to countless people,, which should keep things to manageable levels.

Some folks may still want to find and punish the assassin, but I want a light hand on this -- I don't want to hit the PC too hard for what the GM wanted to happen anyway.

So, I guess in terms of story and roleplay, I'm pulling my punch. But I can live with that.

Benjamin now plans to tell his leader what happened. She may be able to make him hate himself less. Regardless, she'll have to find a discreet soul who can get Benjamin's dreamself out of the king's body. It's a good twist, but one I want wrapped up quickly..

-Lisa
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2003, 09:25:56 AM »

Hi Lisa,

Great post! I see two levels to discuss in this instance of play.

But first, if anyone's interested in the original Martian Eyes incident, check out Interpreting fumbles.

All right, "levels," what am I saying.

Level 1 = the immediate, on-the-spot interpretation of events, which is pretty much what the discussion in Sorcerer & Sword is about, and the basis for your previous thread as well as this one. We have Character X doing Thing Y; fumble; Thing Y is interpreted to fail in effect rather than in execution.

So far, so good. That means a lot and permits a lot more range in events during role-playing:

Task succeeds, conflict succeeds
Task fails, conflict succeeds
Task succeeds, conflict fails
Task fails, conflict fails

Here's my question for the Level 1 thing: now that you are utilizing the 3rd entry above in play, at least sometimes, are you also finding that the 4th entry is more fun than it used to be?

That's what happens for me. Now that I know we can use the 3rd entry when I fail a roll, that knowledge has actually encouraged me to choose the 4th entry when I feel like it too - with enthusiasm.

Level 2 = your GM big-picture concerns. This is especially interesting, because on the one hand, you "changed your plans" ... but on the other, it seems to me as if your new plans are better anyway.

After all, what would be the point of setting up the character with Task A, which he's supposed to reject at the last minute because it's "wrong" or disastrous? That's a common railroading expectation (e.g. nearly every Shadowrun adventure module, now that I think of it), and often not especially satisfying even when it "works."

Seems to me that it's much more fun and interesting if the player has the freedom to carry it out or not, and either way generates (a) a localized "point" (Theme) about the character and (b) more fun for the next conflict, if desired. Just like you've decided to do.

Best,
Ron
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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2003, 06:46:54 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Task succeeds, conflict succeeds
Task fails, conflict succeeds
Task succeeds, conflict fails
Task fails, conflict fails

Here's my question for the Level 1 thing: now that you are utilizing the 3rd entry above in play, at least sometimes, are you also finding that the 4th entry is more fun than it used to be?


Not per se. A failed roll is a failed roll. I am old fashioned, and prefer to use cutting edge ideas as a spice, not as the mael itself.

What I am seeing is an absence of a "bleech" response to the 4th entry. That is, in some circumstances, a failed roll might make me go "bleech". It doesn't fit the mood, or what it means isn't clear, or it makes a combat or something drag on. There are reasons I don't want it to stand -- it's boring or it discourages the player or it's silly or something else -- but I don't want to simply dismiss it out of hand, or why am I bothering to roll? And do I really want to set a precedent of ignoring rolls any more than I have anyway?

So, where I would go "bleech", I now have options. Where I wouldn't, it's game play as usual, and darned proud of it.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Level 2 = your GM big-picture concerns. This is especially interesting, because on the one hand, you "changed your plans" ... but on the other, it seems to me as if your new plans are better anyway.

After all, what would be the point of setting up the character with Task A, which he's supposed to reject at the last minute because it's "wrong" or disastrous? That's a common railroading expectation (e.g. nearly every Shadowrun adventure module, now that I think of it), and often not especially satisfying even when it "works."


I'm not sure what you mean by "changed your plans". There was an element of railroading, but not, perhaps, the one you are thinking of.

I had intended to kill off Kuranes as an excuse to make the Dreamlands more dreamlike. I'd established that it was his will keeping them frozen. This was before I decided to have Hypnos tempt anyone.

Then, I tossed the current plotlines into the mix, as it's always more fun if a PC is involved. I did not expect Beth to have Benjamin decide to agree to kill Kuranes, but once she did, I did not expect her to decide to have Benjamin change his mind at the last minute. And the GM wanted Benjamin to succeed.

If Benjamin had refused Hypnos, I would have had Hypnos offer more. It is established in NightLife that

a. All daemons are subject to a command language hardwired into their brains

b. The daemon leader is waiting for a daemon who is not so subject to be born.

In the original Cthulhupunk campaign, I decided such daemons were now being born, and by the end of the campaign, there were five.

When Beth joined the game, we agreed that she could play the oldest of those five. Benjamin was thinking about the whole issue of the command language. He's a pretty nice guy, for an assassin -- and for someone who's killed people in battle -- and the players had been talking about finding a way to free all daemone from the command language, not just the special ones born recently.

So, if Benjamin had refused, Hypnos would have upped the offer -- kill Kuranes and not only do you get a chance to save your leader, you also get a chance to free all daemons from the command language.

"They will call you 'Benjamin the Liberator' is what I had written down in my notes. But, I didn't have to up the bribe, and I will save that plot thread for another time.

If Benajmin had refused even the raised stakes, well, Hypnos would have found someone else. An NPC, probably. So, it is railroading, I suppose, but not the usual kind.

Although... If Benjamin had decided to warn Kuranes, what would have happened?

What I'm afraid would have happened: I would have decided by GM fiat that Benjamin's efforts to save Kuranes were doomed to failure.

What I think should have happened: Throw a couple of attacks at Kuranes, including one by the Wild Hunt. If the PCs actually save him from this, find another way to achieve the desired effect of making the Dreamlands more dreamlike. Maybe Kuranes gets the message and voluntarily abdicates his power.

-Lisa
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